Sugar?? No, thanks !!!! That’s what you should be saying next time someone asks whether you need extra sugar in your tea, coffee or whatever.
Seriously, we are eating too much sugar, knowingly or unknowingly, and it’s doing us no good. Sometimes extra sweetness can be deadly. Especially if it’s an artificial sweetener.
With this blog post we will learn why and how sugar can be deadly and to try to find out better sugar substitute. Keep reading because things are about to get too sweet.
Table of Contents
What is sugar ?
In simple terms, sugar is a simple carbohydrate. See, it’s that simple. Carbohydrates are of 2 types, simple and complex. Simple carbs are sugar, as it has simple structure, are easily and quickly utilized by the body for energy. They get digested quicker than you write a blog post. While, complex carbs takes time to get digested.
And that’s not a good thing, when things are getting digested faster, that means your internal organs have to work a little bit harder. It’s like you are making the worker of the company work harder, without treating them well, and what will they do? They will revolt. So when you eat too much sugar, your internal organs take unwanted stress to process that and in result they crash.
Our body convert carbs and sugar from the food into glucose (also a type of sugar in blood), while this is happening pancreas release insulin which allows body to use the sugar and use it as energy.
So Red Bull doesn’t give you wings, it’s sugar and mainly all the artificial sweetener.
Anyway, where was I; Yeah, on a healthy diet everything will run smoothly, the pancreas will do its job quietly, like a well paid worker and appropriate quantity of insulin is released. But when you go Hulk smash on the sugar and take an absurd amount of sugar, then the pancreas will go berserk and will release too much insulin.
When such demand is always high, like if you are always eating too much sugar, it will cause trouble in your paradise like diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.
How much sugar is good for us?
There are various standardization for how much sugar is recommended for daily consumption. For the sake of simplicity, I will provide a basic guideline.
Men should not consume more than 9 tablespoons or 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should limit their intake to 6 tablespoons or 25 grams of sugar daily. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) also suggests a maximum daily sugar intake of 30 grams.
However, our primary concern is not the natural sugars found in food, but rather the artificial sweeteners that are added to our food.
What is artificial sweetener?
Artificial sweetener or unnatural sugar or empty sugar is additional sugar that is added to food. It is processed, with its primary purpose being to enhance flavor, texture, and the shelf life of the food.
Interestingly, it’s everywhere, from sauces to drinks. It enhances the taste and makes it more delicious. I’ve already discussed ultra-processed foods, and artificial sweeteners are among them.
These come in many names and are very sneaky, like a lizard hidden in our home that you cannot spot at once. You may read added sugar or unnatural sugar by names like maple syrup, corn sugar, sugar malt, rice syrup, dextrose, cane juice, inverted sugar, etc
What makes the sugar bad?
Sugar may not necessarily be bad, but eating more than our daily need makes it bad for our health. Too much sugar is linked to metabolic disorders, diabetes, dental problems, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and premature aging of the skin, among other issues.
I will discuss this in more detail in the fourth part of this series.
We may not need to consider natural sugars like fructose found in honey, jaggery, fruits, and vegetables, or lactose present in milk and dairy products. These types of natural sugars give the food its natural sweetness.
If a food item contains 10 g of total sugar and from that, 8 g is added sugar, then clearly, that 8g is artificial sweetener, added to enhance the flavor. We need to watch out for added sugar or uncommon names.
Why do we crave for sugar?
We often feel the need to eat something sweet, as if there’s a craving for something sugary. This craving is nothing but an imbalance of glucose levels in our bodies.
We often think that if we eat sugar (or chocolate commonly) during such times, we will satisfy our lust for sugar, but we end up craving more. In fact, in a study, it was found that sugar provides a higher reward to the brain than cocaine.
Sugar cravings may often lead to a sugar rush. During a sugar rush, we experience a sudden spike in energy and a sudden drop. Followed by fatigue, hunger, metabolic imbalance,etc.
This is a marketing tactic that energy drinks use to sell their products, as thirst is often related to a lack of sugar, and consuming sugar may provide instant energy.
When we are stressed, our brains need energy, and typically, sugar, chocolate, or something sweet seems like an easy option to give the brain the energy it craves. This response is automatic, as when we eat something sweet, the brain releases dopamine (the feel-good hormone). This experience is remembered, and we know that to feel good, we need something similar to the last time.
Some people also become hungry during this time (not all). They may not need something sweet, but they want energy and a similar experience.
Different varieties of sugar
If we specifically talk about edible crystal sugar or syrups, there are various varieties available in the market nowadays.
These sugars are seen as sugar substitutes and are sold as sugar substitutes:
- Coconut sugar: It is made from dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Compared to regular sugar, coconut sugar contains potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, etc., but it is high in calories.
- Honey: Honey is often seen as a healthy alternative to sugar. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and has a low glycemic index (GI). However, it has more calories than regular sugar. For example, 20 grams of honey contain 64 calories.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar is made from molasses, which is a syrup made from boiling sugarcane juice until it forms crystals. These crystals are used as sugar, and the remaining syrup is used as molasses syrup (which is used separately). Normal sugar is then added to this syrup and boiled once again to create brown sugar. It is considered a healthy sugar alternative as it has more vitamins than regular sugar, but it is similar in calories.
- Jaggery powder: Jaggery powder is made from jaggery, which is produced from sugarcane juice. This juice is boiled and allowed to cool down, and then jaggery is shaped for sale. In jaggery, molasses are not removed. In India, jaggery is quite popular and used as a sweet after dinner. It is known to be great for digestion as it is rich in fibers. Jaggery has a similar calorie content as normal sugar.
- Stevia sugar: It is extracted from the stevia leaf and is considered to be 100 times sweeter than regular sugar. It has no calories and is considered a much safer option.
- Monk fruit sugar: Similar to stevia sugar, monk fruit sugar has no calories. However, the major problem is its cost and availability. While sugar seems to be much cheaper and easily available, not many people know about monk fruit sugar due to its high cost and limited availability.
There are more varieties like Organic sugar, Xylitol, Yacon syrup, Erythritol, etc. But again, these may not be easily available everywhere and may need more studies backing them.
Look, I won’t suggest that you stop eating sugar immediately. I even attempted a no-sugar diet, but I failed on the first day, thanks to my mother’s lemon tea. Such challenges are unrealistic. Sugar intake can be reduced gradually; for example, if you’re accustomed to using 4 tablespoons of sugar in your tea, try reducing it to 3 and then 2.
Consuming foods high in fiber and protein not only fills the stomach but also provides the necessary energy. Healthy fats are the best source of energy. Such foods improve the digestive system and prevent blood sugar spikes.
Overall, reading food labels is a good practice. We should learn more about what we are eating.
You may need to talk to a health expert or a medical professional before making any changes in the diet.FGW
Some frequently asked questions
What is type 2 Diabetes
A condition where cells don’t respond to insulin and glucose from food is not used as energy. The glucose remains in blood, and it causes too much sugar in blood.
Is Diabetes is only common for adults?
No, kids can also have diabetes. It is linked to unhealthy eating habits and obesity.
How to reverse damage done by sugar?
Simply by limiting the sugar and sticking to a healthy diet, that includes fiber & protein. With that, adding regular exercise is a great way for a healthy life.
Do I need to get a sugar substitute?
Sugar substitute may not be for everyone. It has more nutrients but may not be cost effective. What we need is ditching the artificial sweetener.
What is Glycaemic index?
Different food are rated from 0-100, call is Glycaemic index or GI. The higher the number means food will have higher impact on blood sugar levels and will get digested faster. A lower score means food will have less impact on blood sugar levels.
Other posts in this series
Ultra processed food is killing us slowly, but how? And what is ultra-processed food? I will answer…Keep reading
You know what’s sweet? Your smile!!!! Keep smiling 🙂